Monday, August 30, 2010

Moldau vs. Rusalka

Music Monday gives us a comparison of two well-known Czech works: Smetana’s The Moldau and Dvořák's Rusalka.

Best known of all Czech-inspired compositions is Smetana’s The Moldau, an orchestral journey along the course of Bohemia’s national river. Interestingly, several of its scenes have parallels within Dvořák’s opera Rusalka, which is the heart of our Czech Point Denver project. With assertive French horns, Smetana imagines hunters along the river. Dvořák also crafts a hunting scene, when the prince finds Rusalka, and he, too, uses horns.

In another scene, Smetana imagines water nymphs bathing in the river, evoked by woodwinds and harp. Dvořák’s opera is packed with water nymphs – principally the title character – and often portrays them with those same instruments. Both compositions also have wedding scenes, though Smetana’s is a country wedding and Dvořák’s is royal. It seems both composers were drawing on central elements of Czech culture.

-Betsy Schwarm, long-time announcer/producer for KVOD and music professor

Photo credit: The Wood Sprites in Rusalka. Jeffrey Dunn, Boston Lyric Opera.

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